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Is It Safe To Drink Non-Alcoholic Wine After Giving Up Drinking?

Looking through my blog at some of the Google searches that brought people here, I came across a question that someone was looking for an answer. Is it safe to drink non-alcoholic wine after you stop drinking. Well in the 6 years now that I’ve not drunk, I can say that I’ve kept away from anything resembling alcohol. That includes wine and beer. I really have no idea what it would be like to drink a non-alcoholic beer now. Until today I’ve drunk an ocean of coffee, soda water and not had the urge to try anything non-alcoholic for one reason…what if I actually like it enough to find myself back to drinking alcohol again. For me the risk is too great. I’d much rather skip the non-alcoholic drinks and just enjoy drinking different things. Surely it would be just like trying to ride a Harley with a 50cc engine. I mean it looks like a Harley and feels like a Harley, but just doesn’t sound like a Harley and that’s the point, you’d want to then go find a real Harley to ride and my 6 years abstinence  re-sets to zero and I get to start over!?

So in answer, for me it isn’t something I’m rushing out to do. I wrote about Robin Williams taking a sip of drink years after he gave up drinking and found that he was back on the booze as if he hadn’t stopped. I think you get a taste for alcohol and the brain knows that you’re drinking a ‘kind of alcoholic’ drink, only it knows there is something missing and you might find yourself reaching for something stronger.

What do you think? Do you think it’s safe to drink a non-alcoholic drink after you’ve stopped drinking? Write and let me know in the comments.

Comments

  1. “Safe” is a term that shifts meaning based on context. “Non-alcoholic wine” may have little or no alcohol content — technically, it’s not “drinking alcohol.” But it may still be a relapse trigger. If you want to drink it because you are seeking the kind of fun or relaxation your addicted brain associated with booze, then your recovering brain might well read the cues of context and semantics and desire as “drinking” and pour on the relapse juju.

    If you want to drink it because you want to hang out with old friends who will be drinking and you want to “fit in” or “make them comfortable,” you may well be in a relapse-trigger situation.

    On the other hand, if you’ve got long and stable sobriety, and it’s a situation where there are no relapse triggers, who knows?

    One of our Principals, with more than 35 years of sobriety, keeps a bottle of cooking wine in her cupboard at home, because certain recipes require it– but the only recipes she uses it in are the ones where all the alcohol is cooked out -volatilized- before consuming. It’s not a relapse trigger for her.

    Maybe the safest short answer is this: If you want to drink non-alcoholic wine because it’s the closest you think you can “safely” get to drinking… don’t.

    • hi all! i like beer a whole lot, but have given up alcohol. i still drink non-alcoholic beer (possibly because of its availability and wide varieties in germany, the land of beers), which i think is a wonderful thing. to me it’s not a relapse trigger, or even a substitute for getting shitfaced. if i feel like drinking beer, i simply go buy non-alcoholic beer, which is in the beer section here, and don’t even consider drinking the deadly kind.

      for me it works great, the non-alcoholic variety, but then again, my decision to give up alcohol wasn’t the kind where i asked myself how long i think i’d be able to get away with not drinking. committing to not consuming alcohol is serious business, this we all know. however, finding beverages like fake beer and fake wine that taste good, but don’t have the alcohol in them, is ok in my book.

      i see the problem with alcohol and alcoholism being rooted in alcohol consumption. one drop of the real thing, and everybody knows what happens…BELIEVE ME I KNOW!! but if a dry drunk sticks to his or her guns, like stays 100 per cent commited to staying off of alcohol, then i don’t see what the problem is in having a non-alc beer, wine, or even a sparkling grape juice: the stuff tastes good!

      and what’s better for me is that it actually curbs my urge to drink. i have absolutely no desire to stop being sober, but happen to love the taste of beer, which i’m grateful to be able to drink without slipping back into that slim-necked, bottomless chasm that we all know as the bottle.

      so while it’s certainly not for everyone, especially those who can’t face temptation or don’t want any associations with the demons of drink, i say let those who really don’t want to consume alcohol do their thing when it comes to alc-free beverages. i guess the analogy would be someone who likes coffee, but has given up caffeine, indulging in a decaf every morning. am i alone here, or do some of my fellow dry drunks somehow understand?

      • I like the analogy about not drinking coffee because of caffeine, though I still haven’t had a non-alcoholic beer yet…mainly because the choice isn’t that good here in the UK. In Germany there are many different 0% beers and I noticed in Spain, the 0% alcohol free beer usually shares an equal sized pump with the regular San Miguel beer.

        In the UK we’re not really cut out to help people not drink. Not drinking beer is still seen as lightweight here, and definitely not a manly thing to do.

        There is room for improvement here!

  2. Cooking with wine is something i’ve done many times since giving up drinking, always with left over wine that is days old and probably not tasting very well. You’re right about triggering old associations, for me I’d pass on a non-alcoholic drink. Drinking belongs in my past, so i’m happy to leave all associations there as well.
    Thanks for posting your comment and adding your thoughts to my blog Cecile.

    JB.

  3. My dad used to drink a lot of wine and has stopped for over a year and a half. Things were crazy at that time and we were all very worried. Now he is drinking non-alcoholic wine, should I be worried about him drinking again? He says he likes the taste with a meal of red wine, but red wine was his drink of choice. I wonder if I should confront him on the issue? ask him if it makes him want a drink? Or even thinks about it? I know this game as a former opiate addict. Any help would be great.

    H

    • Hi H,
      I’ve been thinking about your message all afternoon. I feel for you because you are clearly concerned about your father and the situation you find yourself.

      Is your father under any new pressures that he is maybe reacting to? Or is there something specific that has triggered him to start drinking non-alcoholic wine?
      I know that it wouldn’t take much to cross back over to alcoholic wine, for me this is the main reason why I don’t feel I can drink it.
      But your dad might be able to drink non-alcoholic wine for the rest of his life. And in that sense you’ve nothing to worry about.

      Have you got someone close to your family that you can talk to, to share your concerns? A journal might help, make notes and see if a pattern develops.
      As a former addict you know how easy it can be to go back to your old self. I do too. So you are right to be concerned, that’s why I think you should talk to someone close to your family for more advice.

      I hope this is a help for you, H.
      James

  4. Dave Charmers says:

    Hello H.
    Im not sure about your dear old dad and his relationship with non alcoholic wine, i have been sober 3 years and started drinking non alcoholic beer after 12 months. I loved beer and had drank over 200 different kinds, i really missed beer when i gave up alcohol. I can drink non alcoholic beer at home, with friends, at the bar, never would i think for 1 second of ever returning to the real thing!! he probably also misses the taste of a nice drop of wine, just ask him “Dad why don’t you have a soda or ginger ale instead of non alcoholic wine?”

  5. I think you are absolutely right. If you are the kind of alcoholic I am, you will be right back where you started very soon after trying something like non alcoholic wine. Slippery slope. I’d be way too terrified to risk it.

  6. Once and alcoholic, always an alcoholic.
    I tried the non-alcoholic beer and wine and after 9 years was back into a full blown relapse.
    I figure that i was a relapse looking for a reason to start again.
    Now after 5 years I no longer kid myself about being able to drink alcohol or non-alcohol.
    Just my own thoughts and no one elses.

    • My partner and I have been together for one and a half years. He has decided to quit but although he was never physically abusive,he definitely changed once having too much. It’s only day eight of not having a drink but he is coping and doing well, I worry that it may not be safe for him to just stop but he feels fine and says that he feels liberated. I do hope you get rid of the attitude of once and achy always one for there is always hope. X

  7. Hi Krusty,
    This is the reason I’ve avoided non-alcoholic drinks. They’re too close to the real thing, and partly because I just don’t want to relapse…that is the main reason that keeps me going.

    JB

  8. Cheryl Taylor says:

    I was told non-alcoholic beers & wines were for non-alcoholics, as it clearly states on the label. 😉

    • I think the Problem is because the act of drinking something so closely related to alcohol is that it will act as a trigger to start drinking again.

  9. First and foremost, every person is different. To thine own self be true. It would take a heck of alot of NA beer to even get close to the affects real alcohol ever had on me. I have used NA beer in social situations in early recovery and it actually helped me stay away from alcohol. If you know that you can’t trust yourself to drink it, then don’t. Don’t use it if .05 is going to drive you to get loaded for God sakes. I on the other hand don’t have that huge compulsion based on such small amounts of alcohol.

  10. Thanks for this article, this is a very interesting topic. Overall, it’s just not a good idea for me to drink non-alcoholic beer or anything close to it. It just isn’t appealing to me because I guard my sobriety closely. I have three years sober and I got help from a place called New Life House. If you are suffering from alcoholism or looking for a great resource for recovery take a look at their website. New Life House- Structured Sober Living

    • Thanks Billy, I agree, which is why I’ve avoided drinking 0% beers etc. I’ve drunk more coffee in these 6 years sober than I did in all the years before.

  11. I know some will say that it is safe but to me I think you’re playing with fire and it could lead to some problems later on.

  12. SO i am hopping someone can help me with this question, I am planning a surpise V-day party for my dad and mom! 2 years cancer free YAY!!! Its just going to be the two of them and a date night :). My dad is a a alcoholic, mom is not. She and I drink wine all the time together and it does not bother dad. He has been sober for 26 years! I know mom will have a glass of wine and i want dad to have safe wine two. I was wondering what some people thoughts might be on non-alcoholic wines and if there safe? He does drink O-douls ocationly, for family events when everyone has a beer. I know if he is worryed about No-nalcoholic he will not drink it. I just dont want to look like and idiot. So are they the same things? is it wroth getting it? Thanks for the help everyone. And congrades to every person who has ever gotten sober!

    • HI Teo. I think he and your mum will be very happy with the surprise party – get him his favourite non-alcoholic drink and I’m sure he’ll be more than happy.

      Let us know how you get on!

  13. I see it this way. I stopped drinking a long time ago. If I go to A. A. I can not safely have one drink. If I do not go to A.A. meetings ,I can not safely take one drink. I drink non alcholic Ginger wine as it has a lot of health benefits. It may not suit some persons to do this. It depends on what your thinking is like. I will drink anything that is non alcholic. Life is to be lived not endured. Jim

  14. I stopped drinking a long time ago. I drink non alcoholic Ginger Wine and see no harm in it. The latter has a lot of health benefits. I see things this way. If I go toA.A. meetings ,Ican not safely take one drink.. If I do not go to A.A. meetings, I can not safely take one drink. I respect other persons views. I also feel very strongly that life is to be lived, not endured. Jim

  15. I thought I was sober for almost 2 and a half years. No real beer any more but n/a now. My bubble was burst when someone told me that that don’t count “you are still drinking”. Is this true? I now feel devastated.
    Alexe

    • Hi Alexe,
      Don’t be so hard on yourself. If all you’ve drunk is non-alcoholic beer, surely you’ve nothing to worry about. What is a problem is when the taste of non alcoholic drinks pushes you back to the ‘real thing’.
      Don’t forget, it’s your opinion and what you think is the most important thing to consider…not what others think.

  16. Hi,

    I’m now into my third day without drinking, it’s the second time that I’ve tried to give up and go abstinent. I made the decision that now was the time a few days ago (just before my 26th birthday), and I’ve had a lot of support from doctors here in Sydney who have set me up with Naltrexone (Revia) and Valium to help with the cravings. I’ve been a heavy drinker since I was about 19-20, and by heavy, I mean drinking upwards of 20 standard drinks a night – every night – for the past 5-6 years. I know it’s still early on for me, but I’ve made the decision that drinking is just something I can’t do anymore. It was ruining my life, probably most importantly my mental health and my relationships with my friends. I even lost my girlfriend (who was a non-drinker) because she just couldn’t get her head around just how hard it is to moderate (or stop) drinking.

    I’ve found that the 0% beers have helped in the sense that I really enjoy the taste of beer, but my friends are divided on whether drinking 0% is “cheating” abstinence. I’m not sure – I don’t see it as cheating so long as I never touch the real stuff ever again.

    Any thoughts or advice would be much appreciated 🙂

  17. I have been sober for 4yrs. I was told that any hint of alcohol is going the wrong way. That would mean then that you shouldn’t drink orange juice, use mouth wash, get rid of your after shave, insect repellant and so on. I found that a good cold glass of NA beer takes any of the urges I had away. It makes me happy to know I’m not going to get messed up and still enjoy my relaxation. I found dwelling on my affliction only made it worse, a day to day grind that was wearing me out. I’m sober and happy that I’m sober and enjoy my NA. Diabetics find a substitute with there sweetener, other people with hypertension drink decaff. What is so wrong for an alcoholic to find his/her alternate and enjoy. The triggers are what you have to watch for and those I still am vigilant about. I hope that helps.
    10-OCT-2009 and still going

    • HI Alexe,
      Thanks for posting your comment. When I originally wrote this article I was very aware how easily I could become disappointed with non alcoholic beer and want to revert back to the real thing. To be honest I don’t remember having a non alcoholic beer in the nearly 7 years since giving up, but that’s more to the fact that i just prefer other drinks now. It is definitely a very personal thing, and certainly no right way or wrong way.
      Keep happy and congratulations on your 4 years sobriety! :o)

  18. Hi, I ran across this blog, and thought I’d join the debate. I’m three months sober — and I do drink NA beer and wine from time to time. For me, it definitely curbs any urge to drink. I just get to enjoy the experience and flavors without the bad stuff. LIfe for me is much happier sober. And I won’t be trading that for booze. But I will enjoy NA drinks happily — I expect the flavor has come along way since they first started making this stuff. I don’t really notice much of a difference — Ariel is great NA wine and the Germans make a lot of tasty NA beers. Everyone is different…

  19. I am quitting drinking as I have done it for too long, self medicate that is. My problem is that when I do stop, my husband to be is like…”oh yeah, for a couple days” which makes me sad and discounted and discouraged. I will buy and enjoy non alcoholic beer but when he comes at me it makes it difficult. Any suggestions.?

    • Just as alcoholism is a disease so is diabetes and others. Diabetics refrain from sugar in there coffee etc. and find a substitute. An alcoholic should be no different, finding a substitute like NA I believe to be alright. Just be conscious of the triggers that may find yourself going back to the old way and remember the pain it brought all involved.

      Stay sober and be happy on your new life.
      Alexe
      10-10-09 and still enjoying the new me.

      • Congratulations on your sobriety Alexe and thanks for your comment. Being conscious of your triggers is indeed the key and I know for many drinking non alcoholic drinks is a great substitute. For me though, I’ve found more pleasure drinking coffee and sparkling water.

  20. Hi Guys, my name is Ashleigh, I have struggled with this issue for a month now sober. I love NA beers and wine and feel it’s an excellent way to stay sober. I go out with friends and drink the non alcoholic stuff and they don’t know any different the staff put it in a glass with ice no one can tell. I love sobriety and don’t feel this has any effect on me at all. I feel I am strong enough to resist the hard liquor. My concern is AA suggest no alcohol at all? A girl I was chatting to said I shouldn’t be there because I was still drinking! I tried to explain the alcohol content in orange juice and vinegar but they didn’t want to know? Now I am at a loss!

    • To Ashleigh
      You do what is best for you! AA is not the end all be all. The unfortunate part of most treatments revolve around AA and abstinence. I am not Doctor but I suggest that you do what works for you! Keep going and enjoy life . I have been sober for two months. Not super hard but still a challenge. The hardest part is the loss of certain social situations and drinking in them. Some day I will be strong enough to be anywhere. Not now, but that’s fine. My most important thing is at home anyway(wife and daughter).

  21. I found reading all these comments very enlightening. I have decided to stop drinking,it has been 3 weeks. I have no problem and as was mentioned, it is LIBERATING!!!! I was trying to bring something to a dinner party where no one knows yet of my decision – not even my best friends. My husband knows as of this morning! don’t want to call attention to the fact at a gathering. I was reading the comments about non alcoholic wine – makes me nervous. I was drinking out of habit but I don’ t want to trigger anything. Looking for something to bring out to a dinner party…I have enjoyed pure cranberry juice at home – definitely a ‘sipper’!
    Glad I read all comments.

    • Hi Paddy, Great to hear you’ve joined this club – I’ve always enjoyed sparkling water…in a glass with ice and lemon it looks like a gin tonic and can make you feel less self conscious. Let us know what you take in the end and how you get on! James

      • Hi James,
        Thank you for replying. I like that idea of the pretend gin and tonic. It really is interesting that one has to do that to be socially acceptable at least at this point for me.
        I know my friends will feel awkward when I finally tell them. When my dad stopped drinking he said he lost friends because they didn’t think he was fun anymore.
        I looked for an answer on this site before I left for the dinner party and had not noticed one, so I had to wing it and just told the hostess I was “trying something new”. She asked me again later on if I wanted a drink, and was ok with my answer.
        It was a bit hard for me as she kept pouring these glasses of delicious looking red wine for everyone!
        I am so glad I joined this club and I think at this point the non alcoholic wine is a no no for me.
        Thank you so much for your help.

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